Cash-strapped ‘grifter’ Trump will lean on the RNC for his legal bills

A new fundraising venture diverts donations to a political action committee paying his legal bills

Alex Woodward
Saturday 23 March 2024 00:23 GMT
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Despite promises that the Republican National Committee would not be paying Donald Trump’s long list of legal bills, the GOP’s chief fundraising arm appears ready to do just that.

An invitation to a fundraiser in Palm Beach, Florida next month shows that the Save America political action committee – largely serving as the bank for the former president’s legal team – will get a big chunk of the proceeds.

The unveiling of the RNC-supporting Trump 47 Committee is asking donors to contribute up to $814,600 to attend, with $6,600 going to Mr Trump’s campaign, while another $5,000 goes to Save America. And that’s before the RNC gets a cut to distribute to other GOP candidates.

The PAC spent more than $50m on the former president’s attorneys and legal fees last year, according to campaign reports to the Federal Election Commission. Last month, Save America spent nearly $5.6m, outpacing the $5m it brought in.

The fine print from the new joint fundraising effort between Mr Trump’s campaign and the RNC, first reported by the Associated Press, follows the former president’s reshaping of the party, with loyalist Michael Whatley and his daughter-in-law Lara Trump newly elected as co-chairs.

The arrangement also follows Mr Trump’s failure to secure nearly half a billion dollars for an appeals bond after losing a civil fraud case in New York while he faces an apparent cash crunch in the thick of his campaign against President Joe BIden.

“I told you so,” former RNC chair Michael Steele told HuffPost. “Why do folks still believe the BS coming from Trump, the RNC or his campaign when it comes to RNC donor money? The RNC will absolutely find ways to pay his bills because otherwise why is [daughter-in-law Lara Trump co-chair? For her expert political acumen or the state party operations she’s run?”

Former RNC chair Ronna McDaniel, who was ousted last month, said in 2022 that the organisation would stop paying Mr Trump’s legal bills when he became a candidate. Last month, Trump aide Chris LaCivita said that no money from the RNC would be spent on his legal fees.

Instead, the RNC is acting as a pass-through fundraiser – helping raise money that diverts money from the organisation that could be used to support other national and state-level candidates, and first sending it to Mr Trump.

Conservative attorney George Conway noted that the funds raised through the arrangement “are not going through the RNC at all.”

“They’re just being diverted away from it and directly into the PAC paying the legal fees, even though presumably the RNC is playing a central role in raising the money,” he said.

A statement from the Democratic National Committee said “only a con man and grifter like Donald Trump would be so brazen.”

“His campaign and the RNC are already in financial disarray, and Trump is only making their never-ending problems worse by turning his fundraising operation into a begging cup for his legal debts,” according to DNC rapid response director Alex Floyd.

Lara Trump, the newly elected co-chair of the Republican National Committee, holds up a donation check as she gives an address during the general session of the RNC Spring Meeting on 8 March in Houston, Texas.
Lara Trump, the newly elected co-chair of the Republican National Committee, holds up a donation check as she gives an address during the general session of the RNC Spring Meeting on 8 March in Houston, Texas. (AP)

Mr Trump faces 88 criminal charges in four jurisdictions, including charges connected to his attempts to overturn 2020 presidential election results, withholding classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate, and allegedly falsifying business records in a hush money scheme to bury embarrassing stories of his affairs.

For every dollar raised by a joint fundraising committee with MAGA Inc and Save America, 10 cents is directed to Save America, which is being tapped for legal fees, with the other 90 cents going to his campaign.

At his rate of legal spending, Save America is on track to exhaust $60m it recovered from MAGA Inc as Mr Trump heads into a busy spring and summer of criminal proceedings.

“Save America also covers a very active and robust post-Presidency office and other various expenses not related to fighting the illegal witch-hunts perpetrated by Crooked Joe Biden,” according to a statement from Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung. “The Trump campaign, the RNC, and state GOP parties ultimately receive the overwhelming majority of funds raised through the Trump 47 Committee. Out of an Individual donor’s maximum contribution of $824,600, less than 1% (.006%) goes to Save America.”

President Biden’s fundraising arms, meanwhile, reported raising $53m last month with $155m on hand. That includes support from the DNC, which reported raising $16.6m with $26.6m on hand – more than double the RNC’s reserves backing Mr Trump’s campaign.

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